With the advent of technology and globalization the manner in which business is conducted has dramatically changed over the last 20 years. Dan Pink, in A Whole New Mind refers to the transition from Agricultural to Industrial to Information and now to what he describes as the Innovative or Creative Revolution. The advent of technology and globalization has very much driven this changing landscape, particularly here in the US, and this can be somewhat illustrated by considering the following shifts:
From Repetitive to Creative
Whether its automation or outsourcing, the traditional blue collar work is in decline. In a recent USA Today article it was reported that 80% of new jobs in the US are now created in white collar positions. Even within this work category the traditional financial and analytical jobs are also leaving our shores. What’s left is a melting pot for innovation and having an ability to be continuously improving and looking for the next generation product. We have truly transitioned from the physical (repetitive) to the intellectual (creative).
From Directive to Autonomous
Primarily driven by this “new” type of work, leadership styles and how business operates from a people perspective has had to change. A repetitive, mass production environment might be more conducive to a directive style of management but when you are trying to motivate and manage creativity it just does not work like that. The new approach is based on supporting the autonomy of the individual in executing the task but ensuring that they are still accountable for results.
From Tactical to Strategic
Work is also becoming ever more complex. To support the creative mind and autonomous worker there is also a greater need to understand the bigger picture. Even though individuality is valued it must be in the context of a greater purpose; one that connects with the strategic intent of the business. Organizations need to provide appropriate training, develop open communications and engage employees like never before in order to optimize performance and retain their key people.
Quite apart from the social implications of all this what does it mean for the employee of today? Certainly they have to be more adaptable and flexible in their working arrangements. Interestingly what can be quite a challenge for the boomers is an expectation of the Gen X people. The later are growing up in this “changing” landscape and will clearly ensure its continuity and sustainability.